Reference sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, or bibliographies/guides to the literature are a great way to find background information on a topic. Here are some good print and online dance resources to try (organized by category), along with call numbers where you can find these kinds of works.
Plots and Stories:
GV1787, GV1790, MT95
American Ballet Theatre Ballet Dictionary
Features a selection of terms and definitions from the Dictionary and technical manual of classical ballet (GV1787 .G68 1982) with demonstrations by American Ballet Theatre dancers. Video clips are in Quicktime format.
International Encyclopedia of Dance
With nearly 2,000 articles written by scholars from fifty countries, the Encyclopedia covers the full spectrum of dance—theatrical, ritual, dance-drama, folk, traditional, ethnic, and social dance. Cultural and national overviews are accompanied by entries on dance forms, music and costumes, performances, and biographies of dancers and choreographers.
Oxford Dictionary of Dance
Publisher description: "The second edition of this dictionary is a unique single volume reference on all aspects of dance performance. The work covers all aspects of the diverse dance world from classical ballet to modern, from flamenco to hip-hop, from tap to South Asian dance forms and includes detailed entries on technical terms, steps, styles, works, and countries, in addition to many biographies of dancers, choreographers, and companies."
Wikipedia Dance Portal
Wikipedia has a Dance Portal and, in particular, a number of articles on major figures in modern dance, including some created by Emory students as part of an ongoing class project. The usual caveats about Wikipedia as a collectively edited resource apply.
Credo Reference Unlimited
Credo Ready-Reference services feature full-text, aggregated content from hundreds of reference books covering every major subject. Credo Ready-Reference is a user interface that combines content from multiple publishers cross-referencing technology.
This collection of online reference works allows keyword searching of multiple dictionaries and encyopedias. Dance-related reference works in this resource include: Dance Words (Harwood); The Oxford Dictionary of Dance; and International Encyclopedia of Dance (Oxford).
In discoverE: Search with the SUBJECT "Dance Dictionaries". Dictionaries focusing on a specific form of dance, with subject headings like "Ballet Dictionaries" and "Modern dance Dictionaries" are also available.
Classical ballet terms: an illustrated dictionary
Reference GV 1585 .G53 2001
Definitions of terms and descriptions of steps, followed by a section of photographs. Two other good ballet dictionaries are Dictionary and technical manual of classical ballet (GV1787 .G68 1982), with fewer illustrations but an extensive range of definitions; and Basic ballet (GV1788 .M25 1980), with fewer definitions but more photos.
Dictionary of the dance
Reference GV1585 .R3
Covers traditional as well as theatrical dance; worldwide scope. Published in 1964.
Modern dance terminology
Reference GV1585 .L65 1997
Contains definitions of terms and descriptions of motions and steps. This work was prepared from primary sources -- interviews with and quotes from dancers and choreographers -- and wherever possible, preserves the definition as given by the dancer.
In EUCLID: Use "Browse" with the SUBJECT "Dance Encyclopedias".
The dance encyclopedia
Reference GV1585 .C5 1967
Includes an extensive range of subjects, both within and outside of theatrical dance. The focus is largely on Western dance, though there are some lengthy articles on non-Western dance (but not much on African dance). Many illustrations. The 1949 edition is available in Stacks.
International dictionary of ballet
Reference GV1585 .I57 1993 (2 vols.)
More of an encyclopedia than a dictionary (despite the title), this work concentrates on individual artists: choreographers and dancers, as well as some musicians and composers of dance music. Also includes plots and histories of selected ballets; does not include definitions of steps, technique, etc. Some illustrations; some bibliographical references. Lists of individuals' works follow biographical sketches.
International dictionary of modern dance
Reference GV1585 .I58 1998
Similar scope as that of the International dictionary of ballet (above), but more heavily focused on individuals; contains only a few dozen dance plots/histories.
The queer encyclopedia of music, dance & musical theater
Music & Media Reference ML100 .Q44 2004
Presents articles "of three types: overviews of musical and dance genres, essays on topics of particular significance for the queer musical and dance traditions, and entries on individual artists important to the queer musical and dance heritage." -- p. xiii
Black dance: an annotated bibliography
Reference Z7514.D2 A33 1989
GV1595 .A33 1989
A core collection in dance
Reference Z7514 .D2 C685 2001
Dancers and choreographers: a selected bibliography
Reference Z7514 .D2 G48 1995
Research in dance: a guide to resources
Reference GV1594 .B6 1994
Music and dance periodicals: an international directory & guide-book
Music & Media Reference ML128.P24 R58 1989
In discoverE: For collections of biographies, search with the SUBJECT "Dancers Biography" or "Choreographers Biography". For biographies of an individual dancer or choreographer, do a subject search with the person's name, last name first (e.g. "Graham, Martha"). This may also bring up videos of works by that person's dance company.
African-American concert dance: the Harlem Renaissance and beyond
GV1785.A1 P47 2001
The biographical dictionary of dance
Reference GV1781 .A1 C58 1982
Fifty contemporary choreographers
GV1785 .A1 B74 1999
Masters of movement: portraits of America's great choreographers
GV1785.A1 E53 2004
People who dance: 22 dancers tell their own stories
GV1785 .A1 G78 1988
Speaking of dance: twelve contemporary choreographers on their craft
GV1782.5 .M67 2004
Looking out: perspectives on dance and criticism in a multicultural world
GV1600 .L66 1995
Moving words: re-writing dance
GV1600 .M68 1996
The New York Times dance reviews 2000
Reference GV1599 .N488 2001
Writing in motion: body--language--technology
GV1600 .K56 2003
In discoverE: Search with the subject "Ballets stories plots etc." This will include works about the plots of modern dances as well; here, the term "ballets" does not refer exclusively to ballet works.
Ballet plot index: a guide to locating plots and descriptions of ballets and associated material
Reference GV1790 .A1 S77 1987
Dance classics: a viewer's guide to the best-loved ballets and modern dances
GV1790.A1 R43 1991
The world's great ballets: La fille mal gardée to Davidsbündlertänze